Comparing XC Racing with Road and XC (Running) Racing- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Comparing XC Racing with Road and XC (Running) Racing

    Hi All,

    I've been riding MTB on and off for about 15 years now. Never tried racing my bike. I have however run high school and college (small school divisions), and have also done some road races along the way (with one very slow marathon with my mom when she hit her 50's).

    My question is what does a typical beginner XC MTB race (~15mi) compare to in terms of road or XC racing distance on foot? Time wise I'm thinking that it may compare well to a 15k running event, but energy exertion is so much different on the bike vs foot. How does the intensity of a race compare in MTB vs your typical 5k or 10k race?

    I'm trying to gauge this as I ponder my entry into some MTB races for the first time...it's nice to be able to compare to something I know. Thanks for your responses in advance.

    Y

  2. #2
    190lbs of climber
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    I made the same transition from running to mtb racing. A beginner race of about 1 hour feels about the same as a 10k--the first ten minutes or so are easy, the middle gets progressively tougher, and with 15 minutes left you realize that you are almost done so you kick back in again. Ideally you would pace yourself, but this rarely happens in beginner races since everyone sprints the first couple miles and then blows up, and you have to stay with them to maintain position in the single track.
    ye' old trailblog: www.most-excellent-adventures.com THE BAY AREA... WHERE IF IT'S FUN, IT'S ILLEGAL

  3. #3
    Ridin bikes is fun
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    In 1997 I ran the LA Marathon in 3:40 (I think it was in March). I had had been a little sick (cold) and was not feeling well enough to even be in a marathon, but I did it anyway. I was hopping to do it in less than 3:20 (the point of this story is that I think I was a good runner). I had trained hard and long for that race, and had been running and racing for about 5 years. That same year in July I entered my first mountain bike race. Beginner 30-40 in Washington State, I had a mountain bike and had been riding once a week or so for cross training and thought I could easily cross over and race on the bike. My pre race training consisted of riding the course 3 times in the 2 weeks before the race.

    I got my a$$ handed to me. There were only like 15 other riders in my class, but shortly after the start I did not see them again, at all. I didn’t think about racing again until last year after I had been trail riding for a good 6 months, 3 to 5 times a week. I quit running in 2000, but stayed mostly fit in the gym until I started riding a year and a half ago. I did well enough in beginner last year, and now I’m racing sport (or class 2) in the first race I was 24 out of 30. But I had a mechanical problem which cost me a few places, I’m sure. I like to look on the bright side, lots of room for improvement. I have found that XC racing is much more demanding than I ever found running to be. But the fun factor is so high that the extra effort is worth it for me.


    But thats just me.
    Better than most, not as good as some.

  4. #4
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    I ran CC and track throughout high school and college (Div. 3). Switching to mtn bike racing is a completely different animal. I found I cramp more in mtn bike racing than I ever did running. I think part of it has to do with not being able to get full range of motion in my legs. Also, biking you can coast downhill, while running you need to keep your legs moving. I also find it harder to warm up like I was able to running. In biking I am able to warm up, but then stand in the start line for 10 minutes, just to take off in a mad sprint.

    I miss the ease and purity of running, but love mtn biking. Like I tell anyone who asks me which I like better....Biking is easier on the body...until you crash!

  5. #5
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    It's fun to read your comments, I've been racing MTBs for 20+ years, it's all my body knows, this year I'm thinking about doing the Steamboat Pentathalon, a five sport race, that has a 2k snowshoe (run), and ends with a 5k run. So I'm triing to run once a week to get ready, and it's unbearable, soo slow, my feet hurt, and you dont get a chance to rest like when cycling, you're always moving your feet. How does anyone run 26 miles?

    I have no problem doing a 50-60 mile MTB race, and can turn in a top 10% time, but someone big would have to be chasing me to get me to the finish of a marathon in under 4 hours. I see the same thing in XC skiing, guys that can't stay with me for a lap in a MTB race, leave me in the ditch, gasping, at the skate ski races. Most of the MTB racers I know that crossed over from running take a year or two of serious riding to make the switch, but once they get more efficent at cycling, the strength+endurance from running gives them a big advantage.

  6. #6
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    I'm not sure you can just compare different areas of the country and assume it will be the same. Down here in Florida in the FSC series you will find riders in the lowest class who are very accomplished riders and in great shape. There are probably half a dozen or more guys in each age group who are excellent riders and probably should be racing sport or expert (or Cat 2 or Cat 1 or whatever the higher classes will be called this year). They don't move up unless forced to do so by the rules. They will also race very hard for the full race, usually about an hour for the lowest class. A weekend warrior who is a pretty good rider but just rides a couple of times a week as opposed to training seriously will likely get their butt handed to them. There are very few slow riders in the races.

    To give you an example of my experience, not too many years ago I had run five separate 5k races in a row over about a year long period, all in under 19 minutes, with a PR of 18:22. I had also run three half marathons in under 1:30 with a PR of 1:27. I would almost always finish in the top 2% of the race as a whole and in the top 10% in my age division at the time (the very tough 30-34 age group). I wasn't going to hang with the former collegiate runners or the better high school runners, but those times are not too shabby for a middle-aged working stiff.

    On the other hand for my first individual mountain bike race I thought I was ready to be competitive, but was far from it. I was in good shape and also thought I had developed fairly good technical skills, but I absolutely got my ass handed to me. Racing a mountain bike is much more complex and competitive in my assessment, at least down here in Florida. There aren't many racers who are just out there to complete the thing like you have with a running race. The courses are almost all singletrack (so it is tough to pass and takes skill and experience), there are almost always some very technical sections (that become a lot more difficult than usual when your heart rate is pushing 180), and if you can't sprint fairly well from the starting gun to get out front in the top 5 or so riders then you will never see the leaders again.

    I've been told by a bike manufacturer rep, who has raced all over, that some areas are not nearly as competitive as Florida and others are just as competitive or even more so. I would venture to guess that places like California--with a lot of great riding and a huge population (so there are lots of riders)--would have a very, very competitive racing scene.

    A great way to get your feet wet is to do some team races. They are an absolute blast and will give you a little taste of what it is like to race a mountain bike.

  7. #7
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    Thanks to all for your comments. I think you've kind of confirmed what I've thought, that running speed/fitness may not translate much to biking speed/competitiveness. As of now I only have time to go 2 days a week to the trails. The other days are spent running 4-6mi a day with some intervals thrown in. I'll work on getting more quality bike time (if I can) before venturing out to the races. Thanks again!!

  8. #8
    It's about showing up.
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    Keep in mind

    running gives you great pipes.

  9. #9
    lgh
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    ".... confirmed what I've thought, that running speed/fitness may not translate much to biking speed/competitiveness."

    There you go. Think of the difference in watts coming from your legs. One is a power sport.

    Larry

  10. #10
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    I think Gatoback makes a good point. Where I race (In the UK) there aren't many people out to just complete XC races (those guys do enduros instead) so even in sport you have to be pretty fit to avoid embarrassing yourself. I get the feeling that most running races have loads more peole just out to make up the numbers.

  11. #11
    Sweep the leg!
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    At the competitive level CC compares to XCMTB fairly directly, at least for me it does. In my teens and early 20's I was knocking out mid-15 minute 5k's, and low 30 minute 10k's. In the lead pack there was a high intensity for the pace with measured surges with dropping the others in mind. The same thing occurs at the competitive level of road and MTB racing. At the less competitive level, or stated differently, with completing an event regardless of finishing position the idea of being smooth and steady is the mindset. When I ran my first marathon in 1981 I tried to kill it. I finished it at 2:43ish but I was spent. The next 3 marathons I completed I did with the mindset of being functional afterwards. Running or riding at a comfortable pace while paying no mind to how many others are passing or being passed is a much more pleasurable experience.

    The other variable is bike handling skills. Running is essentially "left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot..." and generally you won't get beat by someone who can corner better. Cycling has a skill element that some have and others don't and that can effect an experience more significantly.

    Some tire company advertised "power is nothing without control." That's racing in a few words.
    Authorities speculate that speed may have been a factor. They are also holding gravity and inertia for questioning.

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